We’ve had an unprecedented 2023 legislative session here in Florida. Depending on your stance, of course, these changes could be good or bad – but whether you like them or not, they’re here to stay. Florida’s Governor waited until the last possible day to enact changes to the Dissolution of Marriage and Paternity Statutes, and effective July 1, 2023, we have some BIG changes happening. What you see below is a summary because I cannot possibly discuss every intricate detail of these changes. If you have questions, now is the perfect time to reach out to us!
Good Dad Bill
Antiquated laws do, indeed, persist over decades. I remember learning about paternity issues and being completely shocked at the sheer nonsensical nature of some of the laws. Finally, however, our legislature has allowed for paternity to be legally established without court intervention. This means that previously, even if the unmarried parents of a child agreed that the father was, well, the father, a court had to ratify this agreement under a formal paternity action for the father to have parental rights. It took us until 2023 to enact the Good Dad Bill, which says that the mother and father of a child born out of wedlock are the natural guardians of the child and are entitled and subject to the rights and responsibilities of parents so long as there is a signed, notarized, legal document (i.e.: birth certificate) saying so, which has not been revoked after 60 days. This doesn’t mean the court won’t get involved for other issues (i.e.: child support, custody, etc.) but it means that under the law, finally, a dad is a dad if he really is the dad!
Again, it took us until 2023 to finally enact a law establishing a baseline presumption of 50/50 timesharing between parents, recognizing that as a standard, an equal timeshare relationship with both parents is in the best interests of the child. This presumption can, of course, be overcome by a preponderance of the evidence otherwise, which is exemplified, for instance, by Greyson’s Law.
Arising out of the tragic murder/suicide of a 4-year-old toddler and his father in Broward County, Greyson’s Law requires that the court take into consideration whether a parent has been the victim of domestic violence, is in reasonable, imminent fear of becoming the victim of domestic violence, and whether an arrest, conviction or injunction has been entered against a parent. Until now, a party could successfully argue in court that evidence involving domestic violence which did not specifically involve the child was irrelevant and could not be considered by a judge making a determination about time-sharing. Thankfully, and with the lobbying support of Luhrsen Goldberg and our very own Lora Howell, Esq., President of the Florida Association of Women Lawyers (FAWL), judges can finally consider evidence of domestic violence, even including patterns of abusive, threatening, intimidating, or controlling behavior, when determining child timesharing guidelines.
And last, but certainly not least (drumroll please), what everyone has been waiting for! Yes, it is true, Permanent Alimony has been eliminated. Practitioners are bracing for the influx of alimony modification petitions, Luhrsen Goldberg included. Although this statute is not “retroactive” and a Petition for Alimony Modification cannot be filed “just because” this law passed, a Petition for Alimony Modification can be filed under the new law citing a change in circumstance. This begs the question – how is this statutory change not a massive change in circumstance? Substantively we are looking at some major changes (which will require far more explanation and discussion with your attorney) to include:
New definitions of Short, Moderate, and Long-Term Marriages (i.e.: under 10 years, 10-20 years, and over 20 years, respectively);
-While Permanent alimony has been eliminated altogether, four types of alimony remain, the burden being on the party seeking an award to prove his/her need as well as the other party’s ability to pay. The four remaining types of alimony are: Temporary Alimony, Bridge-the-Gap Alimony, Rehabilitative Alimony, and Durational Alimony.
–Temporary Alimony – during the pendency of the divorce itself.
–Bridge-The-Gap Alimony – assists a party in making the transition from being married to single and assists with legitimate, identifiable short-term needs and may not exceed 2 years. AN award of Bridge-the-Gap Alimony is not modifiable in amount or duration.
–Rehabilitative Alimony – Assists a party in establishing the capacity for self-support through redevelopment of previous skills or the acquisition of education, training, or work experience necessary to develop appropriate employment skills.This requires a specific and defined rehabilitative plan and may not exceed 5 years.This alimony award may be amended.
–Durational Alimony – Economic assistance for a set period of time. We saw the most changes under this category, specifically duration and financial limitations. Subject to exceptions and with an opportunity to extend or increase with clear and convincing evidence of necessity, Durational Alimony is now limited to:
—The duration of the award may not exceed 50% of the length of a short-term marriage, 60% of the length of a moderate-term marriage, or 75% of the length of a long-term marriage.
—The maximum financial impact is limited to 35% of the difference between the parties’ net incomes, or the amount determined to be a party’s reasonable need, whichever is less.
Keep In Mind
There are so many changes to this statute that I cannot possibly review them all, but here are some additional standouts related to alimony awards:
-A court may consider the adultery of either spouse and any resulting economic impact thereof in determining the amount of alimony to be awarded (think, buying one’s girlfriend or boyfriend an expensive piece of jewelry, paying his/her bills, etc.);
-A court is now able to look at anticipated future needs and necessities of life when determining the amount of alimony to be awarded (when in the past it could only look at the seeking party’s current financial needs);
-A court may now consider the emotional and physical states of both parties when determining the amount of alimony to be awarded;
-There is no consideration of tax consequences associated with a lump sum alimony payment or otherwise (i.e.: sorry if you have to cash out your IRA, you don’t get a credit for the tax consequences);
-A court now must reduce or terminate an award of support, maintenance, or alimony upon specific written findings by the court that a supportive relationship has existed between the receiving spouse and another person not related to the receiving spouse by consanguinity or affinity. It is no longer required that the parties live together to prove this relationship!